The Pittsburgh Pirates have promoted first baseman Josh Bell to Indianapolis following Friday’s game. In 95 games for Altoona, Bell has a .310/.379/.431 slash line. He has 17 doubles, six triples, five homers and an impressive 44:48 BB/SO ratio. He switched to first base last fall, getting his first action at the position in the Instructional League and then in the Arizona Fall League. The results haven’t been great this year with 13 errors, but he has shown improvements over the season.
A the plate, the 22-year-old switch-hitter has done much better from the left side, with an .868 OPS, while his .643 OPS from the right side is due more to a contact-based swing that has very little power, but still produces a decent average. He hasn’t homered off a left-handed pitcher since June 10,2014. Bell has also hit much better on the road, with an .888 OPS away from Altoona, versus a .703 OPS at home.
Bell will get a chance to get acclimated to AAA for five weeks, where he will almost certainly begin next season. If all goes well, expect him to be in Pittsburgh by next June.
Relief pitcher Jeremy Bleich has also been promoted from Altoona to Indianapolis. The 28-year-old lefty has a 3.25 ERA in 36 innings.
UPDATE 12:07 AM: Thoughts from Sean McCool…
The timing of the promotion is a little surprising to me, as Bell is 3-for-21 in his last six games (.143 average), but the Pirates haven’t been afraid to promote players after slumping some at their former level (ie. JaCoby Jones promotion). Bell has been working on some mechanical changes in his swing from both the left and the right side, and it seems like the changes are still fluid at this time. At first, Bell was saying that his swing from the left mirrored the one on the right; however, that hasn’t been the case in this recent home series. Otherwise, he has continued to show his fantastic hand-eye coordination and bat speed, and the bat should play well in Triple-A Indianapolis after some adjusting to the level.
From the field, Josh Bell from July 31st is completely different that Josh Bell from the beginning of April. His defense in April was an atrocity. He has since improved tremendously, but he still has a long way to go. He has worked a myriad of times with Kevin Young, and it shows. Bell really just needs to continue to take reps at the position to show more poise and comfort. Reuniting with Gift Ngoepe may be a blessing in disguise for Bell, as he has expressed time and time again that Gift has vastly helped him in the field.
Hopefully, the change in swings can help Bell with his power stroke, a major concern as this season progressed. From the field, I believe that the longer he remains at first base, the better he will become. It will just take time. Don’t expect a September call up to the majors from Bell, as he isn’t ready for that. Hopefully, he will perform well and be ready for a June 2016 promotion to the big leagues.